Sat Jul 29th, 2006 at 03:41:58 AM EST
A report in the Guardian today highlights how different some approaches to crime and punishment can be.
As politicians in the UK vow to get tougher on criminals, inmates on Norway's prison island are busy getting in touch with nature down on the farm. Gwladys Fouché reports on a very different route to rehabilitation
Bastoey is based on the idea that traditional, repressive prisons do not work. "The biggest mistake that our societies have made is to believe that you must punish hard to change criminals," explains Bastoey's governor, Oeyvind Alnæs. "This is wrong. The big closed prisons are criminal schools. If you treat people badly, they will behave badly. Anyone can be a citizen if we treat them well, respect them, and give them challenges and demands."
Bastoey's philosophy is that individuals will stop their criminal behaviour if they develop a sense of responsibility, as well as empathy. And the way to achieve that is to take care of the nature around them. In the stables, for instance, each person is responsible for a horse or a cow.
"I've seen people refuse to take leave because their favourite cow is giving birth," says Haavald, 58, who is serving a five-and-a-half year sentence for fraud and who shows the new arrivals how to work with horses. "One guy - who all his adult life had beaten up people to collect debts owed to criminals - one day, a calf was born and it did not breathe. This guy gave it mouth-to-mouth. You could see he was shaken." ..................
Bastoey also runs education courses and programmes for violent offenders, alcoholics or drug users. The focus is to challenge their behaviour and force them to confront what they have done. "It is easier to do that in a setting where they have responsibilities than in a closed prison, where they lie back on a bunk and wait for their food," says Alnæs....................
Norway has one of the lowest incarceration rates in Europe - less than half the rates in England and Wales or in Scotland. The country's prison population increased 20% between 1992 and 2004, while over the same period, the figure for England and Wales jumped 67%, and 28% in Scotland.
However, it is worth noting that there are no figures for re-offending.
From the front page - whataboutbob